I haven’t written a post specifically giving advice to you writers out there in a while. Personally, I haven’t felt particularly inspired in terms of story writing and therefore didn’t feel right giving advice on something that I myself wasn’t practicing.
I did find my inspiration, though, and I am resuming to write poetry and short pieces of fiction again. So, without further adieu, I will talk about something that all writers struggle with in their pieces of work: character development.
Character development, or the evolution of characters within a written piece, can be extremely difficult to grasp. In every short story I’ve written, character development proved to be the hardest aspect for me. A writer’s goal is to make his characters as believable as possible; therefore, he has to make them as complicated as possible.
Human beings are the most complex creatures on earth, their thoughts and bodies intricate and sensitive. So how, you may ask, can you possibly create a fictional character as complex as a real person? The answer lies in your technique, your connection with your character, and your dedication to it.
Think of your favorite book. Does the main character within it stay the same throughout? Is he/she the same at the end of the story as they are in the beginning?
The answer is, in most cases, no. A good character evolves throughout the novel.
To ensure your character’s evolution, you must illustrate your character’s flaws, virtues, vices, and beliefs through action and dialogue. A real person is not inherently perfect; therefore, your character shouldn’t be either. Think of your favorite villain. Is he/she your favorite because they are stagnant and boring? No; they are your favorite because they have three dimensional motives and relatable qualities to them. Your readers will better relate to a character who is flawed than to a character who is perfect. So, let your character make mistakes in the novel. Let them make wrong choices and let them learn from them.
Never explicitly state what a character is feeling. If the reader cannot analyze your character and contemplate his decisions, then he is not a good character. In this area, imagery is crucial. Describe your character’s actions through strong verbs, descriptive adjectives, and concrete nouns.
At a certain point, or perhaps at the climax of a story, a character may realize something crucial they haven’t before. At some critical point in the novel, your character must metamorphose. It helps to map out your character’s feelings as they change according to the events of the novel. I usually use a graphic organizer for this. Remember, your character cannot be the same as he was at the beginning of the book. Otherwise, the story isn’t worth telling.
You are not going to write a good character if you do not identify with him/her. That’s just how it is. Without a decent connection, your character will lose strength and will not feel believable to your reader. To help build your connection and understanding of your character, refer to this list which will help you sort your character’s traits through in-depth questions.
Revise, revise, revise. Authors go through hundreds of revisions before the final product. If you finish your novel or short story and realize that your character is not as believable as you hoped, go back and change your character’s actions or pieces of dialogue so that they better fit with their traits, or so that they are more complicated. Great character development requires a lot of your time, effort, and passion. Without these things, your character will fall flat.
A flat character does not change throughout the novel. A round character, on the other hand, is what you want to strive for—your character changes and evolves as the plot unfolds. If you dedicate yourself to making your character round, you will succeed in doing so.
Character development, although intimidating, is a magical thing when done correctly. I wish you luck, and never stop writing!